HiFi power conditioners are for longevity in the appreciation of music. Unlike a conditioner of the ‘wash and go’ kind, no transitory, momentary enjoyment, is involved here. You buy it with the intention of sitting back and letting your HiFi get on in delivering great music for some time to come. As ISOL-8 say; “it’s engineered to provide a lifetime of service”.
At a minimum you might have tried proprietary HiFi power bars. You might not. No worries – IKEA or Walmart might have had some hard earned from you. As is quite obvious from the review title, not much explanation is needed as to what the SubStation Integra is for.
This product fits into the Audiophile line of ISOL-8 offerings. Maybe you’ve not thought about it, but whatever you might consider yourself as; audiophile, hifi-ist, or audio enthusiast, or just a music lover, matters not. This is really quite a simple product to use that will appeal to the HiFi egghead and non-techie, alike. Thankfully no technical intimidation here. Just strike up a mains connection, plug higher current power amps into outputs 1 and 2 and into outputs 3-6, the remaining source components, DAC and Preamp, and audio listening inclusivity is coming your way.
It connects to the mains using a Neutrik connector. I used an ISOL-8 IsoLink Ultra power cable which is fitted with such a connector.
The SubStation Integra comes in a conventional case that looks like it might survive intact, being placed on the top of a detonated building. Sporting a front milled aluminium panel and thinner sheet top and sides, it’s a solidly intentioned block. Whatever is your pick, go for rack matching or contrasting, black or silver.
Coffee is best filtered
HiFi Mains conditioners tackle electrical noise associated with the power supplies of all electrical appliances, or radio noise that surrounds us but cannot be seen. This is more common in a WiFi internet world. The SubStation Integra also surge and spike protects your HiFi gear.
Electrical filters are tailored according to groups of outputs mentioned and also such that you don’t loose current to demanding power amps. The idea is also to prevent HiFi components cross contaminating one another.
Removing noise means the HiFi is appreciated for what it can audibly truly do. A bit like getting rid of the noise of Jeremy Kyle; TV is just better again.
I could say I started listening to an album by Diana Krall and notice how her ethereal voice swept past me with startling emotion, such I’m encapsulated in a moment akin to a brazed darkened summer sky. But that would be disingenuous and totally bonkers and I’m not that inclined to such pretentious hooey……
Using the SubStation Integra, the most obvious characteristic on a great system, is how good Tone is.
By being very natural, there is no hint of any high frequency treble edginess that you get on sibilant vocals. Instruments like pianos sound very refined with timbre, rich and articulate. It’s also incredibly accomplished with any classical, or acoustic music.
I plugged my power amps back into my Titan Audio Styx block using a Titan Helios power cable to the mains. The throaty edginess comes back, albeit the sound is a bit more raw and less ‘easy listening’. Due to overuse, I’m not keen on the descriptive word ‘graininess’, but this is an unerring description. It’s just that the ISOL-8 is more polished tonally. It also means bass is both deeper, more taught and realistic. Perceptibility may arise of added detail, due to these qualities too.
This tonal refinement isn’t a frivolous benefit, but is decidedly pronounced. What it means is music is represented more realistically. It’s arrow straight on the target of a neutral balanced ideal. Consequently and quite obviously, appeal is very broad.
Soundstage wise, it has presence and staging like Arnold Schwarzenegger in a 70s bodybuilding contest. Off axis my speakers seem more widely projected and dispersal, like his shoulders, is definitely spanning widthways. It’s a fuller more engaging sound.
Next most obvious is Separation of music and how layers are represented. The SubStation Integra has more separation than Charles and Diana, or more topically perhaps, Donald Trump and Sadiq Khan. Perplexing how a power conditioner can achieve this but nonetheless it’s true.
Like our driving, we can often get caught in a rut of thinking that our HiFi is perfect. The SubStation Integra challenges the notion of how good HiFi should sound. But in this sense it’s of course not changing your components. In audio terms, all the more beguiling that it has a profound effect. We can unwittingly get used to this electrical grunge that affects our taste in HiFi. Much like if you eat a lot of spicy food you can loose your sense of taste…. When I was in Mexico last summer, I was listening to a lot of a Michael Bolton 🙂
Comparative to the ISOL-8 MiniSub Axis which I reviewed too, the SubStation Integra is more naturally involving with the qualities mentioned. It certainly attains the ambit of an Audiophile category product.
Since I’ve had the Chord Hugo TT2 out of my system and going back to the Chord Qutest DAC, the SubStation Integra is putting back a big chunk of what I’ve lost. At least 60% of a chunk, in fact and roughly price comparative. Certainly tonally and soundstage wise. This is really saying something given no change of audio electronics has happened.
You won’t be at proverbial risk of being sworn at in a high profile chefs restaurant for needing salt and pepper, by not accepting the house flavour. There will be no worries with the house sound of this ISOL-8 and it not fitting your sonic tastes. Like those perfectly cooked vegetables, you just get your components as they truly should best be. In this sense, the qualities this unit brings are going to be universally liked. It’s great to go ‘straight from the plate’ and it has really improved a Cyrus CD-t source I have, by a good margin.
The Modus operandi of the ISOL-8 SubStation Integra is essentially it’s tonal qualities, separation, and soundstage. If you want a proverbial dollop of this in your HiFi then I can wholeheartedly recommend this product. Every owner of any decent HiFi should try mains conditioning. ISOL-8 as the preeminent specialists in this area, is a tremendous place to start and has something for all budgets. The SubStation Integra is a fantastic addition to a great HiFi to the extent this unit is up there in terms of Amp or DAC upgrades. It really is that marked in a very good system and very clearly represents value for money. My advice is definitely to demo it yourself.
- Number of available outlets: 6 (4 low/med current, 2 high current)
- Type of outlets available : 13A British chassis sockets, European Schuko sockets, 15A US sockets
- Standard Mains Inlet: 20A Latching Neutrik powerCON (cable not supplied)
- Construction : Steel Chassis with black finish, silver aluminium front panel and lid (black optional)
- Weight : 9.9kg
- Dimensions : (W x H x D) 435 x 131 x 410mm excluding connectors
- Mains Voltage: 230VAC version for 220-240VAC, 117VAC version for 100-127VAC
- Maximum Continuous Current: 6 Amps any one low/med power outlet, 6 Amps across all low/med power outlets, 16 Amps any one high power outlet, 16 Amps across all high power outlets, 16 Amps across all outlets
- Protection : 2x rear panel circuit breaker
- SubStation Integra with silver front panel – £2,199
- SubStation Integra with black front panel – £2,299
- ISOL-8 IsoLink Ultra – £270 (extra 0.5m – £40)
ISOL-8 (Nic Poulson)
Tel : (0208) 856 8856